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Health and Social Care Epilepsy – Diagnostic Procedures


Aims and Objectives This session will look at the procedures for diagnosing epilepsy  By the end of the session you will have an understanding of these procedures  You will demonstrate your understanding in an end of session assessment 


Introduction Epilepsy is a neurological condition (a physical condition that starts in the brain) ď Ź Epilepsy is used to describe the condition where a person experiences recurrent seizures due to a momentary disturbance in the electrochemical activity in the brain ď Ź


Seizures Many people will have a single seizure at some time in their lives ď Ź This does not mean that they have epilepsy ď Ź If a person has epilepsy it means they have had more than one seizure ď Ź


Diagnosis (General) Diagnosis is mainly based on:  The person’s health history  What the person describes about the “events”  “Eye witness” accounts of people who have seen the “events” 


Diagnosis (General) Various tests, including EEG (where brain activity is recorded) may help in the decision making process, but there is not a definitive diagnostic test ď Ź Epilepsy can be very difficult to diagnose ď Ź


Initial Routes Normally the GP would make an initial referral to a specialist if epilepsy is suspected ď Ź The specialist (epileptologist) could be a neurologist, clinical pharmacologist, psychiatrist or general physician ď Ź


Eye Witnesses It helps if the specialist can speak to someone who saw the event ď Ź That person should attend the appointment wherever possible ď Ź


Early Diagnosis An early and accurate diagnosis is important to:  Enable people to come to terms with the diagnosis  Ensure appropriate treatment and support  Enable appropriate information to be given on epilepsy, lifestyle and risk reduction  Promote prospects for best quality of life 


Testing For Epilepsy There is no single test to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of epilepsy  The various tests are a tool to formulating a complete picture  Most tests are conducted in a hospital setting 


EEG (Electroencephalography) An EEG traces the brain’s electrical activity and can identify disruptions  An EEG is the most frequently used test  It takes up to an hour  Pain free 


MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) An MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to scan the brain in a noninvasive way to identify very small lesions and scars ď Ź It is very useful in cases where surgery is a possibility ď Ź


CT or CAT scan (computerassisted tomography) X-rays of the brain are taken, providing a series of cross-sectional images  These can then be reconstructed by computer into a 3-dimensional image  Sometimes a dye is injected into a vein to enhance images and highlight suspected areas of brain damage 


Other Types of EEG Ambulatory EEG  The person wears a tape cassette recorder to provide up to several days’ and nights’ recording of the brain’s electrical activity  Video telemetry  This consists of simultaneous EEG recording of the brain’s electrical activity and video recording of seizures 


Other Scans 

PET scan

Non-invasive process (30/60 minutes) and EEG

Creates 3-dimensional images of the brain and analyses glucose in the brain

SPECT scan

Similar process to a PET scan taking 20 minutes and highlights “hot spots” of seizure activity


End of Session Assessment ď Ź

Testing your knowledge. . . . . . .

ď Ź

Before the handout


References Richards, J. (1999) – Complete A – Z Health & Social Care Handbook. London. Hodder & Stoughton.  Waugh, A., Grant, A. (2002) – Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness. Edinburgh. Churchill Livingstone.  Epilepsy Research Foundation (www.erf.org.uk) 


epilepsy diagnosis